In a high-quality, nail-biting SLA encounter, False Bay RFC came from behind to beat Durbanville-Bellville at Durbanville on Saturday. The final score was 31-29 after the Bay trailed 10-26 at the break.
A close rivalry has existed between the two clubs for a number of years now, one of respect and warmth. Recent encounters have been close, filled with drama and quality rugby. The hosts were victorious the last time they met, that encounter being the semi-finals of SLA 2018 at Athlone in September last year. The victory qualified “Durbies”, as they are known, for Gold Cup 2019. They were losing finalists in the competition. The Bay were reigning Gold Cup champions until this point but were not invited to this particular party due to financial constraints.
By the time Saturday’s fixture arrived, as round eight of the SLA 2019, Durbell were lying second on the table with the Bay snapping at their heels in third position and the scene was set for an encounter of note. Adding spice to the day were the encounters between the Under 20, Second XV and Third XVs of the clubs. Of these three encounters, the Bay were victorius in all but the Under 20 match.
For the large crowd in attendance, what followed was a contest of such high quality, it left many wondering why Club Rugby is still SA Rugby’s best-kept secret.
With a stiff North-Westerly wind at their backs, the hosts set about building a healthy lead to carry them through the second half when the biting wind would be the ally of the visitors. The oppening eight minutes saw possession belonging entirely to Durbies as they launched attack after attack at the Bay lines.
With skipper Angus Cleophas at pivot and fireball Raymond Olivier at fullabck, their backline ran hard at their guests, who defended valiently. Eventually getting their hands on the ball, the Bay started to settle into the contest on a more equal footing and the kitchen got that much hotter as the big hits went in; the ball was spread to find space; and defence reached the critical level of zero tollerance of error.
Durbies were the first to score when an overlap developed on the right wing, perfectly exploited by wing Jaco Conradie, who offloaded to Olivier to complete and then convert. Shaken, the Bay endeavoured to erase the lead they had afforded their opponents. They worked themselves up to the Durbies quarter but turned over possession and wily Cleophas hoofed the ball downfield. The wind carried it, and seemingly Conradie too, the speedster winning the footrace to the ball centimetres from the dead-ball line. Olivier converted.
The chilly conditions were no longer the cause of the chattering of teeth of the visiting supporters. Their team was two tries down, the match barely a quarter of an hour old and the opposing defensive line seemingly impregnable. Just then they were further shocked by a severe injury to star performer, Chadley Cloete, who broke his ankle in a heavy tackle as he attacked the Durbell line. It was a sobering moment, the severity of the injury a low point in the game.
Galvenised and inspired by the loss of their team mate stretchered off to a consoling round of applause, the Bay struck back with a try by fullback Adnaan Oesman, who goaled the conversion. Flyhalf Ewan Adams then converted a penalty to reduce the Durbies lead to just four points and a scortching hot contest got even hotter.
The hosts defended furiously, proving adept at effective counter-attack, one of which lead to their third try, Conradie’s second, scored in similar fashion to their first. Olivier goaled the conversion and then minutes later scored in the corner to extend his team’s lead to sixteen points going into the break.
As the second stanza commenced, contrasting sentiments in the two groups of supporters prevailed. Home support felt not-so-quietly confident, their excitement dificult to contain. A sixteen point lead together with a rock-solid defence structure, incisive running behind a platform of physicality from their forwards, Durbell were looking ominous. The wind even appeared to be in on the act, seemingly losing some of its strength and blowing more in gusts than constantly.
The Bay, not a team to panic, set about building their half, clawing their way back into contention. They scored a try by eighthman Ryan Olivier off the back of a scrum, which Adams converted. With the defecit reduced to nine points, Bay fans were siting on the edge of their seats, only to be pushed back in them as the hosts extended their lead to twelve points with a Cleophas penalty. That was the last time they would score in the match though.
The effect of the wind simply cannot be understated and the Bay pinned their opponents in their half through use of the boot. Durbell had a hurricane in their team, flank Daniel Botes, whose presence and physicality appeared to inspire his team mates, noteably when their shoulders appeared to drop.
Barely into the last ten minutes, False Bay brought themselves to within five points of the leaders with a try by wing Mustqeem Jappie, which Adams converted. It may have been the latter stages of the contest but there was no indication of the intensity fading. Superbly managed by the man in the middle, Quinton Immelman, a respected referee, his experience and demeanour a perfect fit for the occasion, especially at the end when less experienced whistlemen may have cracked, the contest reached a befitting crescendo.
The Bay levelled the scores when reserve scrumhalf Niyaaz Johnson broke the Durbell defence to reach over the line and score next to the uprights. Adams gave them the lead for the first and most important time in the match, but there was still some injury time to run and with the hosts challenging the Bay defences in their own half, a penalisable offence was all that was needed to wrest the result from the clutches of the visitors.
This was not to be and the Bay took match honours in a clash which epitomised the entertainment value of Club Rugby. The Bay winning 31-29.
False Bay now travel to Sea Point to face Hamiltons on Saturday. The Sea Point outfit were shocked by a determined Villager in their 26-33 defeat.
Matches start at 1.30pm with the main match kicking off at 4pm.